Monday, 11:50 a.m.
A few records have already been broken this morning, including the 16 below reading at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. That bested the old mark by two degrees, and when combined with the winds sustained at 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph, made it feel as if it was 40 below! There have been very few days in the past 20 years with temperatures that far below normal, and having a day stay this far below zero. Feb. 2-4 1996, stands out in that regard, when temperatures stayed below zero for the better part of three days.
If you look at the 1000-500 mb thicknesses, the lowest values are over them right now:
That thermal trough extends right down to the western Gulf Coast, with areas to the west out in the Plains, though extremely cold, actually undergoing some sort of warm advection. Look at the temperatures aloft:
This is one of those air masses where the difference from one side of the cold front to the other is dramatic, and it is one of those air masses where temperatures will go down regardless of the time of day as the arctic air drills in, and go up as the core of the coldest air starts moving downstream. Look at the 24-hour temperature change from 10 a.m. yesterday to 10 a.m. today:
The stubborn low-level cold air that was tough to rout out of the interior mid-Atlantic and New England yesterday has, by and large, given way to a dramatically warmer air mass, with temperatures in the 50s to near 60 right now across all of southern New England. In contrast, once the front passes, some of the temperature changes since this time yesterday have been well over 40 degrees! I suspect those 24-hour changes, when looked at tomorrow morning, will be even larger in parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England, perhaps over 50 degrees!
Records are likely to tumble tonight all the way to the Gulf Coast, and a few may disappear in the East as well as this polar vortex rotates across the Lakes into Quebec:
As bitter as it is, the atmosphere will look a lot different by the end of the week. Look at the projected 850 mb temperatures for Friday evening:
Much as we saw with temperatures in the East this past weekend, the low-level arctic air won't be chased away easily, but the air aloft will moderate rather easily after tomorrow. Then it will be a matter of time before mixing takes that warmth aloft and brings some of it down to the surface. Before we get there, however, a 48-hour period of intense cold is in store for most of the country from the Plains to the East Coast.
The pieces are falling into place for a powerful storm to develop in the central Plains this afternoon and strengthen tomorrow night as it crosses Pennsylvania into southern and eastern New England.
While the deep winter cold is on a temporary hiatus, it will come back in the wake of a potent storm at midweek, a storm that will deposit its heaviest snow on New York state and northern New England.
Once the storm off the Carolina coast pulls away from the coast tonight, the weather pattern will be rather quiet in much of the country into early next week, and it will also be rather mild in much of the nation. That will all change with a storm during the middle of next week that could dump heavy snow from parts of the Ohio Valley to the Northeast, and it will be followed by another blast of very cold air for the second half of next week into next weekend.
Cold and wintry weather is not leaving any time soon, though there will be a couple of breaks in the cold over the next week that will offer up some spring teases.
The worst of the bitter arctic air is easing over the next 24 hours, but there's still plenty of cold air in the pattern, and there will be a storm next week that may spell trouble as it runs from the Northwest early Monday to the East late Wednesday.
A record-setting cold air mass is in place from the southern Plains to the East Coast today. It will ease later this week, and another of its kind is unlikely, but the pattern remains cold for much of the next two weeks.